LancasterChorale Commemorates Centennial Of The End Of WWI

Oct 23, 2018

At the time, it was said to be the war to end all wars. One hundred years after the end of World War I, LancasterChorale is paying solemn tribute in music and readings of poetry and letters to those who gave their lives in that conflict.

It’s one of the most emotionally charged performances that LancasterChorale has ever given,” said LancaterChorale Artistic Director Stephen Caracciolo in a recent interview.

This weekend, LancasterChorale commemorates the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I with Vigil in Memoriam 1918: Rachmaninov and Voices from World War I. Performances are at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27 in Worthington United Methodist Church and at 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28 in St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church in Lancaster.

LancasterChorale’s performances come just two weeks before the Nov. 11 Veterans Day holiday, which this year also marks the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day, the official end of hostilities on the war’s Western Front.

In planning Vigil in Memoriam 1918, Caracciolo noted other World War I centennial commemorations around the world and determined that LancasterChorale should also pay tribute to the fallen.

“LancasterChorale ought to be adding its voice to this community remembering those who perished,” he said.

The program features Rachmaninov’s All-Night Vigil, a work composed in 1915 and first performed that year at a concert in support of the Russian war effort.

“That music suits LancasterChorale very, very well, and we had been wanting to bring that forward,” Caracciolo said.

The program’s second half interweaves choral works by Gail Kubik, James MacMillan, Harry T. Burleigh, Maurice Ravel, Edward Elgar and present-day composer Alistair Coleman, and solo trumpet music that Caracciolo composed specially for the occasion with readings of World War I-era poems and letters between an American soldier and his mother.

“I was determined to make it something very heartfelt, something reverent, something very dignified,” Caracciolo said of the concert’s second half, which he says has the feel of a Ken Burns documentary unfolding in real time.

“When you watch these classic documentaries by Ken Burns on television, you just enter into these amazing stories, these personal stories interwoven with images and music that’s coming from afar, the reading of letters,” Caracciolo said.

“It brings the whole story forward in a way that’s very personal and very real,” he continued. “What we’re going to do is something live, with poetry read aloud and that trumpet da lontano – off in the distance – and then this beautiful choral music and the letters woven all together.”

Timothy Leasure, professor of trumpet at the Ohio State University and member of the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra, will perform as trumpet soloist. I will serve as guest reader in poems by Laurence Binyon, Rupert Brooke, Walt Whitman, John McCrae and others.

And members of LancasterChorale will read aloud a series of letters between American serviceman Lawrence Williams and his mother.

“They’re very touching; they’re very personal,” Caracciolo said of the letters. “We see this change in attitude from Lawrence. He thought that he was going to be serving rather shortly and rather victoriously and then go right back home. And about the third letter in, he says, ‘This is really going to be longer than all of us thought it was going to be.’” 

The performance will also include a special moment to honor by name those from Lancaster who died while serving in World War I.

“We wanted to make sure that veterans felt that they were honored in this performance,” Caracciolo said. “And we can imagine that there are going to be people in the audience for these performances that have lost people in recent conflicts. And we hope and we know – we’re confident – that this performance will honor them as well.”

LancasterChorale performs Vigil in Memoriam 1918: Rachmaninov and Voices from World War I at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27 in Worthington United Methodist Church and 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 28 in St. Mary of the Assumption Catholic Church in Lancaster.